Museum of the West: Where It’s Cool to Explore

Getting “out and about” in the summer means finding a great indoor attraction

Courtesy Rees W. Candee

Scottsdale boasts itself “the West’s most Western town,” but its newest museum has a much broader scope. Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, on the outskirts of Scottsdale’s Old Town, celebrates that vast region generations worldwide have romanticized: the American West.

There’s a marvelous array of public art, from the sidewalk designs to the standing sculptures to the building’s architecture itself, but go ahead and save that for when you visit during the cooler months. During the summer, everything cool is inside. In fact, chills will likely run down your spine at first sight of the gleaming silver and hand-tooled leather on the elaborate parade saddle — by famed Hollywood artisan Edward H. Bohlin — at one end of the entrance foyer.

With a strong focus on fine art, Museum of the West displays paintings and bronzes by premier artists. These include ongoing exhibitions “Courage and Crossroads: A Visual Journey through the Early American West,” with paintings by Thomas Moran, “gold tone” photographs by Edward S. Curtis and Pueblo pottery as well as objects associated with Kit Carson; and “Confluence of Cultures in the American West: A Selection of Contemporary Artists from the Peterson Collection” presenting iconic Western images such as mountain men, American Indians, cavalry and settlers, and, of course, buffalo. Movie buffs can delight in the collection of movie posters that line the walls of the orientation theater.

Those looking for memorabilia of the West won’t be disappointed, either. Showcased within a set straight out of an old Western movie is everything from hats to spurs, including chaps in amazing textural variety, sheriff’s badges and handcuffs, saloon gambler paraphernalia, and a seeming forest of saddles.

Interactive pieces include creatively themed games, such as a Chutes & Ladders, Western landscape version, that contribute to the museum’s goal of immersing guests in the essence of the American West — which it achieves to such an extent that, barely one year after opening, Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
3830 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale

Photo courtesy Rees W. Candee

Western Spirit Special Exhibition

Navajo Woman Going on a Journey by Lone Wolf (courtesy Hart M. Schultz)

“Lone Wolf (Hart M. Schultz): Cowboy, Actor & Artist” (upcoming opening June 21 and running through August 31) features a selection of paintings, sculptures, illustrated books and ephemera by a man whose life bridged the cultures of his Blackfeet Indian mother and his white father, prolific Western book writer James Willard Schultz. In addition to illustrating at least one of his father’s books, Lone Wolf shared his personal knowledge of his tribe and experience of the West in art rendered in bronze and on canvas.

Distinguished for his ability to portray the transformations of the American West during the first half of the 20th as he lived through the period from the time of free-roaming buffalo prized as a vital resource to Native peoples to the first man on the moon, Lone Wolf also experienced first-hand two of the most romanticized occupations: a cowboy on the open range, and a screen actor in early silent films.

Photo courtesy Hart M. Schultz


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